As mentioned in early blogs, it is important to really think about the location where you choose to settle, especially if you are buying. I thought I would go into a little more depth about why I made the decision, 17 years ago, to move to Atenas. More important, why I chose to stay and make it my home for all these years.
1) The Best Climate in the World? Okay, you can debate this all day, but let’s face facts, the weather isn’t too bad. Ranging from 60 F as a low in the night to 90 F as a high, it’s way better than tornados and ice storms. It’s not as hot as the beach (while being only an hour away) and even in the rainy season, it’s usually sunny in the morning. So, the climate is definitely not a reason to leave.
2) The Best Community. This is a community that gathers together in hard times and in good. Most of the locals are related in one way or another and they have been very welcoming to me and most foreigners. The ex-pats that live here are also not here for the short-term. People don’t come to Atenas for a party like you see at the beach. They come to be a part of this community and the positives are everywhere, with groups that benefit the children’s home, abandoned animals, and more.
3) Small town feel. Maybe this comment belongs up in #2, but I love that it takes me 20 minutes to walk 3 blocks because everyone greets you all along the way and wants to talk. It makes me feel included and at home. You just don’t get that in the city. People are also really happy to help. They want to help you get where you are going or help you find the right person to fix your car. People know you by name and the waiters know your favorite meal.
4) Security. I’m not going to say that nothing bad ever happens in our quiet little town, but the crime rate is low. My children grew up playing in the central park and I never had to worry because everyone there knew who they belonged to and were always watchful to keep all of the children safe.
5) Simplified living. Bigger is better, more is better? Not in Atenas. It’s still a simplified lifestyle where things are just things. Parts of Costa Rica have evolved into consumerism but Atenas is still very traditional where time with family is more important than having the latest gadget or the biggest home.
6) Family is first. Tying in with the previous comment, family absolutely comes in first. To the disappointment of big business, it is very important that parents are there for their children. I am still amazed at men who are out in the afternoons taking care of children or teenage boys watching their little siblings. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen elsewhere, but it’s just so common here that it’s an incredible feeling. My children have had the unique opportunity to grow up truly bilingual and bicultural and feel that the whole community loves them and is raising them.
7) Great schools. In addition to the public school system, Atenas has two private elementary schools and two private high schools. They are absolutely top level education and at less than half the cost of private schools in San Jose or the U.S. The schools are small and so the teachers can personally guide the kids and be a significant part of their lives.
8) Pura Vida. The good life, the living in the moment, the taking time out to smell the roses. However you want to translate it, it requires patience. For me, this has been one of the most difficult things about living in Costa Rica, but at the same time, my family in the States comments that I have become way more patient and tolerant. I still have a long way to go, but I am adapting.
9) Location. Atenas is 25 minutes (avoiding rush hour) to a major mall and one of the top private hospitals and an hour to the beach. It is 30-40 minutes to the SJO international airport and will be about 20 minutes to the new airport in Orotina which will be going in soon. It is considered a bedroom community because many people prefer to live here in the small town and commute to San Jose to work. Flights to/from Houston are about 3 ½ hours and Miami is even closer.
10) Great commuter bus system. I’ve been in buses all over Costa Rica and the Atenas Coopetransatenas buses are the nicest. They go about every hour (more often in the mornings) and if you have to go into the center of San Jose, there is no easier way to travel. Even though I have my own car, when I have to get in and out of the San Jose business district, I take the bus.
11) I meant to stop at 10 but this last one is important. Cost of living? There has a been a lot of complaints about how expensive Costa Rica is getting. In many ways, that’s true. Food, electronics, and cars are more expensive, even up to twice as pricey. However, services are still cheaper. My dentist cleans my teeth for $30, a private doctor visit is $50, and a massage is $30. I can enjoy those “luxury” items that I could never do in the States. I can have my nails done for $6-8 with hand painted designs. Because of the weather, I don’t need air conditioning or heating, making my monthly electric bill only $30/month. So, I think it balances out and I have learned to avoid some of the more expensive things or just accept that I really want it no matter the cost. It is tropical Costa Rica so I have to remember that I can’t compare it with Oklahoma, but need to compare it to Hawaii. When you think of it that way, the cost of living is not too bad.
These are just my reasons why I love it here. Whether others disagree or have other personal reasons, this is what I love.
Oops, one final thought…not only does Costa Rica not even have a military, it is so off the grid when it comes to international politics that terrorism hasn’t located us (and we hope it won’t anytime soon) and that makes it a great place for everyone to come and visit. So, come on down!
For questions about living in Atenas or Costa Rica, feel free to contact Tina through firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Facebook page “Tristan & Newton”.